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Science Debate 2008 December 21, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in politics, science.

Wouldn’t it be cool if the presidential candidates had a debate about science? I’d love to see them address:

  • How do they see the connection between science and our country’s future?
  • What should science’s funding be?
    • Many of you are voting members of congress: what do you think of the current science funding train-wreck? (no, there is no bias in that question!)
  • Peer review vs. Pork?
  • Evolution, Creationism, and ID. I’d like to see this posed in such a way that if anyone waffles to avoid pissing people off it is clear they are waffling (I don’t hold onto the illusion that one can pose the question in a way to prevent waffling).
  • How can our space program further science goals? Man vs Machine missions?
  • Immigration, visas, and their connection to scientific research.
  • What should the role of the science advisor to the president be?
  • What is the proper balance between applied research (i.e. hydrogen cars) and pure research (i.e. much of what goes on in science departments around the country).

I’m sure there are other things we should ask them. But seriously, it is time for science to enter the conversation.

There is a petition up to try to force the issue, or at least focus our wrath… Science Debate 2008. Sign it if you are willing. And spread the word to any like-minded friends of yours!

I note with some pride that Mark Emmert, the President of the University of Washington, signed it.


1. John Anderson - December 21, 2007

>> “What should the roll of the science advisor to the president be?”

roll -> role

2. gordonwatts - December 21, 2007

Yikes. Thanks. Fixed.

3. Nate - December 21, 2007

Is the “Immigration, visas, and their connection to scientific research” bullet in reference to, say, scientists from other countries not being allowed to immigrate to the U.S. a la Paul Erdos?

4. vidyardhi Nanduri - December 24, 2007

Presently Cosmology is undergoing REVISION and BIG-BANG,
Dark Matter,DARK ENERGY and Blackholes are all under question.
Evolution needs to catch up with creation.
These books provide search links,routes and many COSMOS QUESTIONS
that form links to COSMOS YOGA SERIES as follow-up.

1. The Science of Philosophy: Divinity, Vedas, Upanishads, Temples & Yoga
2. Philosophy of Science : Plasmas, Electro-magnetic fields and Cosmology
3. Resource : Reflectors,3-Tier Consciousness, Source, Fields and Flows
4. Noble Cause : Human-Being, Environment, Divine Nature and Harmony


5. gordonwatts - December 24, 2007

Nate — I dont’ know much about Erdos other than what is on Wikipedia — where it says he was a victim of the McCarthy era. I was more worried about the post 9/11 effects – they did a lot of damage; the USA is doing it better now, but not yet as good as it could be. I would love to see this country send out a message “scientists are welcome” in big flashing lights. Sorry it took so long to reply; I lost the email for your comment and so forgot to reply.

Vidyardhi – “evolution needs to catch up with creation” – I’m assuming you mena creationism and thus I say: they can’t be compared; there is no unifying theory between scienec and religion. They live in seperate worlds. Their only intersection is in people who believe in both, and somehow they manage to do it with having their heads explode (unlike some of the computers on Star Trek!). The philosophy of science, however, is a rich rich field. Science, like everything else, is driving by people, and people have personalities, and that definately shows. I spammed your other comment because it showed up on a totally unrelated post. At least this one sort-of has a connection to my post.

6. Nick DiGiacomo - December 24, 2007

Much insight could be gained into the candidates’ understanding (or lack thereof) of the role of science in national policy by testing their grasp of the history of science advice to the President.

As Gregg Herken details in his book “Cardinal Choices: Presidential Science Advising from the Atomic Bomb to SDI”, different presidents have had wildly different views of the role of the Presidential Science Advisor and associated bureaucracy (OSTP, advisory committees).

Asking a candidate whether they would model themselves after Eisenhower or Nixon – two extremes – or other Presidents when it comes to seeking science advice would be quite revealing.

7. gordonwatts - December 24, 2007

Nick — excellent. Or as the current administration seems to use the sci advisor — sort-of in reverse. The policy is decided at the WH, and then the advisor is one of the instruments used to implement it. Input going the other way (i.e. advice) seems to be pretty small.

8. Nick DiGiacomo - December 24, 2007

Yeah, but it takes two to tango. John M. could always take the Elliot Richardson approach. That said, it is never as clear-cut from the outside as it seems. I learned that working for Jay Keyworth (Reagan Science Advisor) at Los Alamos (same time as Wick and Hamish), and then for Jay when he quit the White House and started a company. Many liberal friends skewered me at the time, but the experience did make me appreciate how most scientists have tin ears when it comes to the spectrum of input that a President has to assimilate.

9. gordonwatts - December 24, 2007

Nick, thanks for writing — I’m sure you are right — but it would be also nice if the advisor was able to communicate that in the other direction. I suppose laying the blame for the current science policy at the advisor’s feet is not proper, but on the other hand he is one of the few in the adminstration that can speak as a scientist. Of course, in politics, one thing you can’t say to a group of people is “you aren’t important.” 🙂

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